31 Oct 2023

Oppn leaders claim Apple notified them of state-sponsored attacks targeting their iPhones; what Apple and BJP said

TMC MP Mahua Moitra, embroiled in the case of taking money for asking questions in Parliament, has claimed that the central government is trying to hack her phone and email.

iPhone-maker Apple Inc, however, has said it does not attribute threat notifications, such as the ones received by some MPs belonging to Opposition parties, to any specific state-sponsored attackers and that it cannot provide information on what causes such warnings.

On Tuesday, at least four prominent Opposition leaders claimed to have received messages from Apple alerting them to "state-sponsored attackers attempting remote compromises" on their iPhones. They subsequently shared screenshots of these notifications on their respective social media profiles.

Among the recipients of these messages were Mahua Moitra, a Member of Parliament from the Trinamool Congress, Priyanka Chaturvedi from Shiv Sena (UBT), Shashi Tharoor, a Lok Sabha member from the Congress party, and Pawan Khera, the head of the Congress party's media and publicity department. All of them shared the screenshots on their social media handles.\

AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi and CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury have also made the similar claims.

After this, Mahua said in another tweet that Akhilesh Yadav has also received same message. At the same time, many people from Rahul Gandhi's office have also received such alerts. This is worse than emergency. The country is being run by people who snoop around.

Everyone in my office has received this alert: Rahul

After some time, Rahul Gandhi held a press conference and said that everyone in my office has received this alert. A list has been made in Congress. Pawan Kheda, Supriya, Priyanka... this has happened with them too. If the government wants, they can take my phone, I don't care.

Moitra, upon sharing the screenshots, stated, "I received a text and email from Apple warning me about the government's attempts to hack into my phone and email. @HMOIndia—get a life. Adani and PMO bullies—your fear makes me pity you." She also mentioned that three other leaders from the opposition INDIA alliance had received similar messages.

Chaturvedi also shared a similar screenshot she received from Apple, adding, "Wonder who? Shame on you. Cc: @HMOIndia for your kind attention." In response to Moitra's post, she mentioned, "So, not just me, but also @MahuaMoitra has received this warning from Apple. Will @HMOIndia investigate?"

Shashi Tharoor, the Congress MP from Thiruvananthapuram, also shared a post about receiving a similar warning message. He verified the authenticity of the message, stating, "Received from an Apple ID,, which I have verified. Authenticity confirmed. Glad to keep underemployed officials busy at the expenses of taxpayers like me! Nothing more important to do?" He tagged the Prime Minister's Office, the Congress party chief Mallikarjun Kharge, and Rahul Gandhi in his post.

Pawan Khera shared a screenshot of a similar message on his social media platform and questioned, "Dear Modi Sarkar, why are you doing this?"

The message shared by these MPs warned, "ALERT: State-sponsored attackers may be targeting your iPhone." 

It further explained, "Apple believes you are being targeted by state-sponsored attackers who are trying to remotely compromise the iPhone associated with your Apple ID. These attackers are likely targeting you individually because of who you are or what you do. If your device is compromised by a state-sponsored attacker, they may be able to remotely access your sensitive data, communications, or even the camera and microphone. While it's possible this is a false alarm, please take this warning seriously."

BJP said- Why don't you wait for Apple's reply?

BJP's Amit Malviya said that people who are always suspicious are creating ruckus in the name of 'state sponsored' attack and are pretending to become martyrs. Due to all this hue and cry, I am guessing that like all the previous allegations, this too will turn out to be a hoax. Why not wait for a clarification from Apple?

Can't call it state-sponsored hacking: Apple

Latert iPhone-maker Apple Inc said it does not attribute threat notifications, such as the ones received by some MPs belonging to Opposition parties, to any specific state-sponsored attackers and that it cannot provide information on what causes such warnings.

Apple in a statement stated it is possible that some threat notifications may be false alarms and some attacks may not be detected.

"Apple does not attribute the threat notifications to any specific state-sponsored attacker," the firm said.

State-sponsored attackers, it said, are 'very well-funded and sophisticated, and their attacks evolve over time'.

'Detecting such attacks relies on threat intelligence signals that are often imperfect and incomplete. It's possible that some Apple threat notifications may be false alarms, or that some attacks are not detected,' it said.

It, however, refused to say what triggered warnings received by MPs, such as Mahua Moitra of TMC.

'We are unable to provide information about what causes us to issue threat notifications, as that may help state-sponsored attackers adapt their behaviour to evade detection in the future,' Apple said.

Meanwhile, sources privy to the development said Apple has sent threat notifications to individuals whose accounts are in nearly 150 countries. 

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